Friday, June 4, 2021

Craft Your Discussions With Chat

Interacting directly with your audience in real-time is one of the major benefits of creating content on a livestreaming platform like Twitch. There are many ways to approach the subject, and I’ve spoken in several entries about all the different methods I’ve used to interact with my own audience. Ultimately however, there are a few major points I consider most important when it comes to chat. First, you want to make sure your channel’s chat has the right tone. Second, you want to be able to talk about things you actually care about. And third, you want to make sure you aren’t being pushed around. In this entry, we’ll talk about crafting your discussions with chat.


Even though the viewer is the one who actually writes in your chat, you as the streamer are still able to set the pace and tone for discussions within your streams. After all, you’re the only one on a stream who speaks, and you’re the one that everyone is watching. It’s up to you which comments get more airtime and which get pushed into the background. Viewers also follow your lead when it comes to the overall positivity level. The frequency with which you get offended by comments can dictate how often you’re bothered in the future. And even your level of concentration can increase or decrease the flow of messages, as chatters prefer to comment when you’re paying the most attention to your audience. Quite simply, as I suggested in the title of a previous entry, Your Twitch Chat is a Reflection of Yourself.

Two very different levels of talkativeness. 

Once you realize this, it helps you take something like chat, which might seem totally out of your control, and start shaping it however you want. All you have to do in order to change something about your chat is look at the current results, then adjust your behavior on stream to counteract them. For example, if you want to increase the amount of messages you get, try speaking more frequently, and cultivating a more welcoming environment for viewers to share their thoughts. Make it clear you’re checking for messages, and answer promptly when you get them. If you want less negativity among viewers, stand up for the things you care about and lead by example. Don’t allow negative messages in, and make sure you aren’t acting in a way you wouldn’t want your viewers to act. As the streamer, it’s up to you to keep things in order.


Many streamers, in attempting to increase their engagement, like to put out super low-hanging fruit for their audience. These will typically look like simple ‘this or that’ prompts, like “pancakes or waffles?,” “Star Wars or Star Trek?,” and other ultra-simple questions. Asking someone what time it is in their time zone is another, which (for whatever reason) invariably sends every other viewer into a chain reaction, commenting with their own local times. These questions are designed to get the maximum number of people talking with the minimum amount of effort. And there’s nothing wrong with doing this if you feel you need to jump-start your chat. But you should be careful with these kinds of cheap engagement tricks.

In the entry Beware Chasing Follower Counts, I talked about the need for actual creative nourishment in streaming, and it’s just as important to maintain some level of intellectual nourishment when talking with chat. These kinds of simple ‘this or that’ pings will often get the job done, but they aren’t actually interesting conversations. Especially when you’ve done this for years and you’ve asked versions of the “pancakes or waffles” question for the hundredth or thousandth time, you’ll be feeling pretty bored with it. Continuing to ask things like this can also cause a snowball effect. If you're utilizing chat-boosting questions, it means that on some level, you’re chasing after growth metrics. And as I’ve spoken about in several previous entries, that kind of strategic junk food might get you short term results, but it doesn’t nourish you in the long run.

In the entry Up Your Showmanship on Stream, I talked about the three basic steps in crafting better chat interactions: make your viewers feel heard, truly engage with their comments, and build on their questions. Using these basic tools, there are lots of more healthy and interesting conversations you can have with chatters, should you choose to.


It’s also important to read through messages before reading them aloud on stream. As I mentioned in the entry Setting Limits for Your Streams, “many new streamers will take a 'leap without looking' approach to reading comments, simply repeating back whatever's put in front of them before they actually comprehend it. You don't want to accidentally end up saying something that violates your personal values on stream just because someone put words in your mouth.” You may think it unlikely, but this kind of thing isn’t uncommon in Twitch streams, and most experienced creators have been in their share of awkward situations because of it.

In the entry Who Is Watching Your Streams, And Why?, I described this type of person as ‘Chatting With An Agenda.’ While most viewers want to be entertained by watching your show and having fun conversations, there are others who seek a different kind of entertainment. They look for streams where they might be able to get a rise out of the streamer, or otherwise manipulate the show in some way. For this reason, you should be wary of anything in chat you don’t understand. Sometimes you’ll be asked to repeat a strange but meaningless phrase. Other times you’ll thank a new follower whose username looks like nonsense, but when read aloud sounds like a story spoiler or crude word. If you don’t take that moment to think things over before reading it out on stream, you can get yourself into embarrassing situations.

Not every comment will be as innocuous as 
"Pepsi for pizza."

Sometimes you may even receive comments in other languages. It’s a common tactic for those chatting with an agenda to post rude things in a different language, in order to either watch you Google Translate and then be offended by it live on stream, or watch you respond with courtesy to something deeply offensive that you didn’t understand. For this reason, it’s a pretty commonly accepted practice for Twitch streamers to only allow chat messages in whichever languages the streamer understands. Of course, not every viewer who speaks another language is typing in chat maliciously, and they’re certainly welcome to watch the broadcasts. But anyone reasonable would realize that if you don’t speak their language, there’s no way for you to interact with them, and therefore there’s also no reason to post the chat messages. Usually, when someone continues posting in another language after it’s clear you don’t understand, they’re actually chatting with their own agenda. There’s no way to moderate a chat that you yourself can’t read after all, and having a clear-cut rule like this will avoid a lot of problems going forward.


Just like no two people are the same, no two streams are the same either. Everyone has their own style for dealing with chat, and it’s important to remember that all the things I mentioned in this entry are personal lessons I’ve learned by streaming on my own channel. By going out there and continuing to stream yourself, your own preferences will begin to fall into place, and you’ll find even more ways to moderate and manage the tide of messages. But if you take anything away from this entry, remember that the way your chat behaves isn’t as random as you might think. It’s always possible to craft your discussions with chat.

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